Virtual New Zealand logo


  »  Top 10 visits
»  Adventure
»  About NZ
»  North Island
»  South Island
»  Guides
  »  Auckland
  »  Christchurch
  »  Dunedin
  »  Hamilton
  »  Napier
  »  Nelson
  »  New Plymouth
  »  Picton
  »  Queenstown
  »  Rotorua
  »  Taupo
  »  Tauranga
  »  Wellington




The South Island of New Zealand

The South Island is the biggest island in the New Zealand archipelago. The island's main geographical feature is the Southern Alps that run the full length of the island. There are over 10 peaks that measure greater than 3000 metres, thousands of glaciers, and many world-class ski fields in this mountain range. The climate and landscapes of the South Island are diverse. There are lush ancient rainforests, dry mountain valleys, sunny beaches, and steep fiords.The beautiful city of Christchurch is the biggest city on the island and third largest in the country. While it was devistated from a series of earthquakes, the city is rebuilding anew among the old stately English architecture. The regions of the South Island are as follows:


Marlborough Sounds

The Marlborough region is situated in the north of the South Island. The region is the sunniest in New Zealand and many world class wines are produced here. The two main towns are Blenheim and Picton. A scenic and complex area of waterways called the Marlborough Sounds offers fishing, boating, or trekking opportunities. Read more

Nelson / Tasman

Tonga Bay Abel Tasman National Park

The Nelson region is also blessed with a great climate and contains some of the best beaches in the country. Nelson is the main city and is a good base for organising trips to the famous Abel Tasman National Park. Other areas of interest include Kahurangi National Park, Nelson Lakes National Park, Farewell Spit, and Rainbow Ski Field. Read more

West Coast

Lake Matheson

Further to the south and on the west coast is The West Coast region, the most isolated part of New Zealand. This area is squeezed between a rugged coastline and the Southern Alps. The area is sparsely populated and contains large areas of wilderness including steep mountains and ancient Beech forests. Due to the steepness of the landscape, glaciers decend into rainforests and come close to the coastline. Read more



Over the otherside of the Southern Alps lies the Canterbury region. Most of this region is a huge plain, but it also includes part of the Southern Alps and even the highest mountain, Mt Cook. So it is a region of great contrasts. Christchurch the major city is the biggest city in the South Island and second biggest city in the country. Recently the city suffered two major earthquakes and was extensively damaged. But rebuilding is underway and the city has great plans to become a green city with unique architecture. Read more



Immediately to the south of the West Coast and Canterbury regions lies the Otago region. Central Otago is a scenic mountainous area with a continental climate, i.e., extreme temperatures, (hot summers and freezing winters), due to its inland position. Queenstown, New Zealand's premier tourist town is located here. As you head toward the east coast, a maritime climate prevails with increasing greener landscape and less extreme temperatures. Dunedin the biggest city is located on this coast and has some of New Zealand's oldest buildings as well as great natural attractions. Read more



At the bottom of the South Islands lies the Southland region. Southland is home to Fiordland National Park which is one of the biggest national parks in the world. This park contains the best scenery in the country. Notable features of this World Heritage area are the steep mountains, waterfalls, fiords, all surrounded in lush beech forest and rainforest. Read more

Stewart Island

Stewart Island

Just below the South Island lies the third biggest island in the country, Stewart Island. The island has one small town called Oban, with the remainder of the island being a protected wilderness area and is managed as a National Park. The island is a safe haven for many of New Zealands endangered birds such as the Kiwi and Takahe. Read more

Why you should visit the North Island

New Zealand Cities Travel Guide

Author & photographer: David Johnson (Virtual Oceania)



This web site, logo, name, content, photos, and design are protected by international copyright law.
Original versions of our photos can be purchased & web versions can be shared subject to conditions.